'Tech Talk' with Dr. Michael Kassner

The following is a transcript from the Office of Naval Research's online Tech Talk series. Dr. Michael Kassner, director of ONR's Department of Research, answered questions from audiences on Facebook and Twitter on Oct. 20.

Kassner joined ONR in October 2009. Reporting to the chief of naval research, he is responsible for the overall integration of the discovery and invention science and technology portfolio in supImage - Dr. Michael Kassnerport of naval needs. Prior to ONR, Kassner chaired the Department of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering at the University of Southern California (USC), where he also taught materials science.

Kassner has held positions at Oregon State University, the University of California, San Diego, Naval Postgraduate School, Department of Energy and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory--all of which are relevant to his role at ONR. He is a fellow of both ASM and ASME, a Fulbright Senior Scholar, and has served on the editorial boards for the International the Journal of Metallurgy, Materials Letters and the Journal of Plasticity, Metallurgical and Materials Transactions.

Editors' Note: The following transcript includes questions submitted earlier on Facebook and Twitter, and e-mailed directly to ONR.

Event Transcript

Shelley Hanes: Does the ONR or the Navy visit actual K-12 school sites for STEM related outreaches or expos, for example having a motivational speaker or demonstration at pep rallies or student assemblies? Or maybe having a four hour block in a school gym where students can rotate through expo learning stations to ask questions by grade level?

Shelley Hanes: Dr. Kassner, my 6th grade daughter was curious as to your favoriite science topic. She wanted to know if your favorite is earth science, life science, space science or robotics? Those are her favorites at this age.

Nrdla Pao: Dr. Kassner, I saw that ONR is partnering with Iridescent here in Los Angeles. Can you give some details on the program and how our Sailors can partner with ONR on this endeavor?

Valerie Andrewlevich: Dr. Kassner - I live next to Naval Weapons Station Earle in New Jersey and am wondering if the ONR has any K-12 collaborations there and how to become involved.

ONR: Good morning! Thanks for joining us for ONR's “Tech Talk” with Dr. Michael Kassner. We will be taking questions on a first-come, first-served basis. Please post your questions below and remember to refresh your browser periodically to follow along in real time.

ONR: We'll take the first question from Tara Chklovski, who asks: "How would you measure success in five years?"

ONR: We know Tara and applaud her good work as CEO of Iridescent, a nonprofit ONR-grant recipient providing hands-on science and engineering experiments to underserved urban middle school students and their families.

Dr. K: Success in five years means improving the quality of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) educational programs. The Navy's STEM initiative aims to create higher touch, longer duration outreach programs for students and teachers that are highly effective. This aligns with the Secretary of the Navy's mandate to double the Navy's overall STEM effort.

Gio Wiederhold: That's a very important question throughout. One certainly can't measure the effects of good teaching during or even shortly after a course. But tracking is hard. So we get only anectodal feedback.

ONR: We'll take our next question from Edward Alan Fox who asks: "Computing is key to robotics and many other STEM activities. Yet there are few computing-related courses in K-12, quite different than in Australia or Israel, for example. There also are few trained to teach in an effective and exciting way about computing, which should start in middle school and continue in high school. How can we work together to assemble computing education resources and leverage Navy interests to address these dire problems?"

Dr. K: We acknowledge the shortfall in well-trained and equipped computer science professionals, which we can split into a variety of fields such as computer science, information technology, etc.

Dr. K: We have not historically funded education and outreach programs focused on computer science(s), however, ONR has recently issued the first-ever long range broad agency announcement focused in the development of STEM programs. We would welcome proposals that take an innovative approach to bringing computer science education into our STEM portfolio.

Dr. K: This was a very good question.

ONR: For reference, the broad agency announcement is available online at http://www.onr.navy.mil/Contracts-Grants/Funding-Opportunities/Broad-Agency-Announcements.aspx (see 10-023).

ONR: We'll take the next question from Shelley Hanes.

Vanessa Cortinas Garza: Earlier this month, I attended an OST (out of school time) Science conference in Universal City, CA. It was mentioned that 2011 will be the 'Year of Science' in which ISE will be the focus of summer programs and after school programs. What role will ONR play?

Dr. K: Across the country at various naval command and laboratories, there are scientists and engineers who routinely do outreach in their local districts and communities. They sometimes go to schools, but they also invite students and teachers into the labs. You can visit the STEM2Stern Web portal (http://www.stem2stern.org/) to see what commands might be nearby and what opportunities might be available in this regard.

ONR: And there's also the upcoming U.S. Science and Engineering Festival Expo on the National Mall, right?

Dr. K: The U.S. Science & Engineering Festival Expo, Oct. 23-24 in Washington, D.C., is the culmination of a month-long effort across the country to raise awareness in STEM. ONR, as well as several other naval commands, will be there with hands-on experiments to capture students' imaginations. A robotic glove, underwater robot and the physics of sailing are among the exhibits.

ONR: We'll take Shelley's next question.

Dr. K: When I was in the 4th grade, I knew I wanted to be a scientist. I chose, in the end, to be a materials scientists because it is a combination of chemistry and physics. I also still like geology a lot and, in fact, I collect rocks and minerals. It's one of my vices.

ONR: We'll take the next question from Nrdla Pao.

Dr. K: Through a proactive partnership and grant, ONR is working with Iridescent to serve underrepresented students and families across Los Angeles. This year, Iridescent is expanding their curriculum to include four Navy-relevant topics that are being developed in collaboration with Navy mentors.

Dr. K: If your Sailors are interested, I encouraged them to visit Iridescent's web site at www.iridescentlearning.org.

ONR: Can you tell us more about the Iridescent science studios?

Dr. K: There are two science studios -- one that was officially opened Oct. 16 with a science festival in Los Angeles; another will open in the Bronx, NY, on Nov. 4. These studios are the playgrounds and headquarters for the family science projects in their respective cities. These centers will serve as clubhouses for the students, but they will also act as hubs emanating science outreach through the community in family science programs, summer camps, movie nights, science challenges, etc.

Dr. K: Not to be overlooked, parental involvement is key to the success of this program.

ONR: We'll take the next question from Valerie Andrewlevich.

Dr. K: There are programs in New Jersey. If you visit the STEM2Stern web portal (http://www.stem2stern.org/), and cursor over New Jersey, you'll get three pages of available programs in your state.

ONR: We'll take the next question from Vanessa Cortinas Garza.

ONR: We know Vanessa as a member of the Iridescent team. Can you clarify what the ISE acronym?

Erika Allison: ISE: Informal Science Education

ONR: In the meantime, we should mention that Dr. Kassner's group will have an approachable presence at the 2010 ONR Naval Science & Technology Partnership Conference which takes place Nov. 8-10 in Arlington, Va. Here's a link for more information: http://www.onr.navy.mil/Conference-Event-ONR/science-technology-partnership.aspx

ONR: Other fun things ahead?

Dr. K: We're looking at several opportunities to develop a suite of mobile apps around specific Navy-relevant science and engineering topics. Our first will roll out in this winter. Focusing on bird flight, it will allow students to design a bird's wing structure to learn more about the physics of flight and aerodynamics. Then, with 3-D modeling, it will allow students to maneuver the bird.

ONR: Thanks, Erika, for the ISE definition. Going back to Vanessa's earlier question.

Dr. K: Informal Science Education is a focal point in our K-12 STEM effort. Most of the programs in our portfolio include afterschool hands-on enrichment programs, summer camps and summer internships.

ONR: Any final thoughts Dr. K?

Dr. K: Navy Secretary Mabus is very excited about Navy STEM and we expect the Navy to be a national leader in STEM education.

ONR: OK great! Thanks for your participation in today's event. Join us at 11 a.m. EST, Wednesday, Oct. 27, for a conversation with Tracy Frost on Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer programs.

Eugene F. Brown: Given that something like 60% of today's engineering students at our universities start out at community colleges, what plans does ONR have to interface with community colleges to facilite this important gateway to STEM-career preparation?

Nic O'niell: Good morning sir, I work at Nrd san Antonio and have been tasked with involving the navy community in the local k-12 stem programs in hopes to aid in the mission of the stem program and am also trying to get awareness out there about the program. I am curious how you see our role, and what you would like to see us accomplish to aid your office.


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